Life after marketing

By The Drum, Administrator

July 29, 2004 | 6 min read

The restaurant was small and so were our appetites. Sitting down in the empty establishment the owner breezed over with a look that was considerably hungrier than ours. After leaving with a modest order for two starters (\"would sirs like to see the wine list?\" \"No, water will be fine thanks\"), she looked almost forlorn. A look that contrasted starkly with the appearance of my dining companion; the former new business director and founding partner of Advertising Principles, Philip Hesketh.

Hesketh, once described to me as \"the best new business man in the business\" (incidentally, it wasn’t him that said that) is radiating the insouciant aura of a freed spirit. After leaving the cosy confines of the business he set up in 1986, Hesketh has spent the last 15 months establishing himself, admittedly according to his own promotional literature, as \"one of the country\'s top professional speakers\". And he\'s not finished there.

\"I\'m single-mindedly focused on becoming the best speaker on the planet.\" Looking up from my water I realised that he was being completely serious.

\"I\'m being serious. Why should I set the objective of being the best in Yorkshire, or the North of England? I want to be the best on the planet. I want this book (\'Life\'s A Game, So Fix The Odds\' - he picks up a draft to plug it to the camera) to sell 20 million copies. I want it to be more successful than \'How To Win Friends And Influence People\'.\"

He\'s clearly not lost the ambitious streak that allowed him and partners Bernie May and Chris Goodwin to grow Principles into one of the country\'s largest independent ad agencies. In fact, if anything, he seems to have fine-tuned it.

\"Some people pick up a golf club and they can play golf,\" he ruminated. \"Not me, I\'m terrible. But I can present; I can speak to people, hold their attention, give them something genuinely valuable and make them laugh too. It\'s what I\'m good at and I want to be the best.\"

He continued; \"Now if I want to be the best on the planet I have to be better than an American guy called Andy Robbins - he\'s generally regarded as the best there is. I went to see him speak last summer. I paid £450 to hear him speak for three days. There were 9,000 people there. Now, I like the math on that.\"

I\'m sure Mr Robbins does too. With this in mind, and Hesketh\'s relaxed, tanned appearance in eye, I raised the issue of filthy lucre. \'Is public speaking a, how do I put it, rewarding business?\'

The smile said it all, but being quite a proficient talker, Hesketh articulated the obvious: \"Let\'s just say I charge good rates. I\'m making as much money now as I did at Advertising Principles and I only work for 100 days a year. There\'s not that many people capable of standing up in front of a crowd of 350 and doing what I do. In fact I don\'t know anybody that does exactly what I do, so I can charge good rates.\"

At this point you may be asking \'okay, so what exactly does he do? What does being \'Phil Hesketh: professional speaker\' actually mean?\'

\"I just tell stories,\" is the candid reply to the first question. \"I\'ve got over thirty years worth of them. Some of them are bound to be interesting.\"

In reality this is obviously just the snowflake balancing on the iceberg. After spending nearly twenty years as AP\'s chief new business man, Hesketh\'s skills lie not only in presentation and selling, but also in psychology, and specifically, as he likes to refer to it, \'the psychology of persuasion\'. His website, www.heskethtalking.com, will describe the intricacies of this far better than I can here.

Getting back to the other question, \'what does being \'Phil Hesketh: professional speaker\' actually mean\', it appears to mean a lot of travelling.

\"So far this year I\'ve spoken in Spain twice, Portugal once, I was in Africa for the weekend last weekend, obviously New Zealand (‘obviously’ as the country is rapidly becoming his second home and will be the first market to sample his book) and I\'ve got several bookings for Holland later in the year. You could say I\'m getting around a bit.\"

He\'s getting around a bit. Although he\'s not going to Chelmsford. In a moment that, to your humble hack here, sounded pure Linda Evangelista, he noted; \"there\'s a certain amount of money I won\'t walk out the door for. I got a call the other day asking me to go down to Chelmsford for £800. Well, no. I had nothing on, but I\'m not doing it, not for £800.\"

Well I would. But then again, they wouldn\'t want me, or probably you. They wanted Phil Hesketh and Phil\'s time is money.

\"Look,\" he qualified, \"I do about 100 gigs a year and I\'m quite happy with that. It\'s strenuous; when I go on stage I still get butterflies, although mine fly in formation, and when I come off my shirt\'s drenched in sweat. I don\'t want to increase my workload, I just want to carry on getting better and increase my rates. I enjoy what I do and I aim to keep my life balanced and keep enjoying it.\"

After 30 odd years of hard graft in the ad industry you can hardly blame him for that.

With our fishcakes finished and water washed down we got ready to leave. The issue of the bill was sorted by Phil; I offered, he paid. I think he must have used that \'psychology of persuasion\' on me. He\'s good you know, I\'ll give him that.

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